PowerTalk

Folks - 

As you know there’s a lot going on in the press these days -- the IRS targeting conservatives, the AP scandal and Benghazi to name a few. Another is immigration and immigration reform. Joining me this week on PowerTalk to sort through the issues on immigration is former Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, Carlos Gutierrez. Before he was the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez was the Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Kellogg Company (K).


As PowerTalk friend economist Douglas Hotlz-Eakin recently wrote “Immigration reform resulting in net population growth and an increase in employment-based immigration would likely have wide-reaching economic benefits, and would provide a boost to the housing sector.” Companies poised to benefit include not only the homebuilders like Toll Brothers (TOL) and D.R. Horton (DHI), the nation’s largest homebuilder, but also furniture, paint and appliance vendors like Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH), Sherwin Williams (SHW) and Whirlpool (WHR).

It’s not just housing that would benefit from a revamped immigration policy. Consider that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s (FB) co-founder and chief executive, pulled together an impressive roster of tech executives to advocate for immigration reform.

Why?

To the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business.

According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • 65% of organizations hiring full-time employees say they are having difficulties recruiting for specific job openings.
  • Half of organizations said candidates do not have the right skills for the job, while 42% said candidates lacked the needed work experience.

As former Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez tells me, if we want to get the country back on the growth path we need, we need to revisit immigration. He would know, after-all in 2004 he was the person that Fortune Magazine dubbed “The Man That Fixed Kellog.”

Direct download: 05-19-13_SECGUTIERREZPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EST

This week on PowerTalk not only am I excited to talk to someone who is truly informed and that means a great conversation to take you behind the scenes and in the know, but  we get an answer to a question that many have been wondering if not asking - based on what we’ve seen over the last few years, how would President Obama fare if he were the CEO of a publicly traded company?
Answering that question is none other than Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor in Chief of Forbes Media. I’m sure many of you have seen Steve on TV, read his widely followed Fact & Comment column in Forbes magazine or on Forbes.com or consumed his book “Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn’t.”
As you might expect Steve a fantastic guest and we cover a lot of ground -- the U.S. economy, what’s going on in Europe, growth vs. austerity, tax reform, Obamacare, and big government. We also touch on how Steve has revamped the business model at Forbes given the challenges faced by the traditional publishing business model. It’s a great conversation, and I think  you’ll really want to hear is Steve’s answer to that question and a number of others.

Direct download: 05-12-13_STEVEFORBESPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11am EST

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from a number of cable companies like Comcast (CMCSA), Charter Communications (CHTR), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and others. All in all, it’s been a message that reinforces the increasing degree of what I call the Connected Society - WiFi, the Cloud, high speed Internet and on demand programming. Mix in the shift toward smartphones and tablets, and we find the notion of appointment TV viewing is nearly gone save for sporting events. 

Those cable companies are battling with mobile operators, such as AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and others for consumer dollars. As they do this, the operators have made it more expensive for consumers to utilize their services even though new technologies have made it cheaper for those companies to deliver said services. Just this past December, Charter Communications instituted a price increase on its high-speed Internet service. At Comcast, price increases on video service and customers upgrading to HD packages and digital video recorders (DVRs) helped boost the company’s first quarter profit by 17%.

For those wondering why I’m up on all of this, the growing Connected Society is a key  part of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend

Joining me on PowerTalk to discuss why this and what it means is Susan P. Crawford author of the new book “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.” Ms. Crawford is a law professor who served as special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy. 

It’s a terrific conversation and not only is Susan an ace on the subject matter but doesn’t pull any punches. Some of the key insights that Susan and I discussed on this edition of PowerTalk include:

  • How after years of deregulation and a wave of mergers, there has been little to competition nor adequate oversight when it comes to high-speed Internet access.
  • Verizon Wireless and AT&T, who together account for about two-thirds of U.S. wireless subscribers, can raise prices with impunity and often appear to act in lockstep. Their average revenues per household or per user continue to climb. By comparison, in Europe, where wireless carriers face much more competition, average revenues per user have fallen by 15% over the last few years.
  • Despite high-speed Internet access offerings from AT&T and Verizon -- Uverse and Fios, respectively -- those two companies have stopped expanding these offerings and are focusing on their wireless services. As Susan points out, this leaves the cable companies and Comcast in particular in the cat bird seat when it comes to high speed Internet access and related services. The industry leader, Comcast continues to invest in network infrastructure to ensure product leadership in video and high-speed internet, as well as the expansion of new services that generate attractive returns like business services and XFINITY Home.
  • From an investor’s perspective, Comcast has several competitive moats about its business especially since the purchase of NBC Universal, While many see Comcast’s competitors being the other cable companies as well as AT&T and Verizon, Susan points out and I agree with her that post Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal its real competitors are companies like The Walt Disney Company (DIS), a content company that owns theme parks and ABC; Viacom (VIA), which owns CBS; and News Corp. (NWS).

 

Direct download: 05-08-13_SUSANCRAWFORDPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:10pm EST

Welcome back to PowerTalk - I’m your host Chris Versace and I’m taking you behind the scenes and in the know with conversations I’m having each week with CEOs and key business. If your new to PowerTalk, we’re going deeper into some of the key issues of the day to help sharpen your view when it comes to investing. 
Last week we got the latest rash of economic data that shows that while the U.S. economy is not falling off a cliff, it’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. In recent weeks, we’ve gotten figures that point to more people falling our of the work force, heard more about cyber attacks and watched the tragedy in Boston while the issue of gun control percolates in Washington. 
We’ve also started to realize what the true cost of Obamacare will be when its fully implement in 2014. Even The New York Times ran a story recently with the headline “Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Rollout”
It also seems that many across the pond in the Eurozone are realizing that austerity is not the solution. After years of insisting that the primary cure for Europe’s malaise is to slash spending, the champions of austerity, most notably Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, find themselves under intensified pressure to back off unpopular remedies and find some way to restore faltering growth to the world’s largest economic bloc.
Joining me this week to make some sense of all of this is Dr. John Lott, economist and author of the new book “At The Brink.”  In his new tome, John talks about how the Obama stimulus was the most expensive failure in history, why debt will continue to grow under Obama and why you can expect soaring health care costs.
It’s a book that Kevin Hassett, Director of Economic Policy Studies and senior fellow  at the American Enterprise Institute says is “chock full of sober, fact driven analysis that is must reading for anyone who wants a glimpse of our near future.”
Not only is it that but John Lott has a number of charts and graphics that crystalize the central points. After hearing that you may be excited to see the book, but just wait until you hear what he tells me.
Direct download: 04-28-13_JOHNLOTTPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18pm EST

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

A few weeks ago, subscribers to my investment newsletter, PowerTrend Profits, were told about the opportunities to be had in the shares of Nuance Communications (NUAN), a voice and speech recognition technology company. Since then legendary Carl Icahn disclosed a sizable position in Nuance and the company went on to announce several new wins. At the same time, we’ve seen a number of other activities and interests surrounding speech technology in recent months

  • General Motors (GM) is working to integrate Apple’s (AAPL) Siri offering into its infotainment system;
  • Google (GOOG) recently acquired DNN Research to improve its Voice Search solution;
  • Amazon (AMZN) acquired text-to-speech and voice recognition company IVONA Software for an undisclosed sum;
  • iSpeech, a Newark, N.J.-based startup that specializes in lifelike text-to-speech apps and previously rolled out voice technology for the connected home, launched a platform to help publishers quickly and inexpensively convert books and articles into audio;
  • Microsoft’s (MSFT) Research and Development teams have been working on something voice based of their own.

And that’s just the short list. Yep it looks like speech technology is becoming THE interface for connected devices. That’s why I’m really jazzed to talk with Paul Musselman, the CEO of Carnegie Speech this week. When we talked, Paul was at the ASU/GSV Education Summit in Arizona, but he made some time to talk with us about the opportunities to be had with voice and speech technology, what it means for the education market and how Carnegie Speech is changing both how students learn to speak English. 

You may not realize it, but as you’ll hear speech technology has will change not only the way we learn and have an impact on Immigration, it could potentially alter the gaming industry as we know it. 

Direct download: 04-21-13_CARNEGIESPEECHPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09pm EST

Fellow investors,

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

One of my Great 8 PowerTrends is Always On, Always Connected. That refers to the pervasive nature of the Internet and the connected society we live in today. You see this first hand day in and day out as we use our smartphones and tablets to read email, message our family and friends, check the latest on Facebook (FB) or LinkedIn (LNKD), stream a movie from Netflix (NFLX). With mobile carriers looking to grow their mobile data revenues beyond smartphones and tablets, they are starting to target other applications. One example is the recent teaming of AT&T (T) and General Motors (GM) to turn the car into a connected hot spot. Another is bevy of services being shown by AT&T (T) and other carriers as part of their attack on the home. 

All told, these two markets -- The Connected Home and The Connected Car -- are expected to account for more than $120 billion in revenues this year alone. It’s such an opportunity that I devoted my entire May issue of PowerTrend Profits to those two topics. Think about it,  if carriers like AT&T and Verizon are only now starting to aggressively target these opportunities, it says 2013 is just the start of these new connected services. 

Joining me to talk about this and the larger role of machine to machine communications is James Nolan, Executive Vice President of Research & Development at InterDigital (IDCC). For those unfamiliar with InterDigital, the company is a technology development and licensing company that counts many of the who’s who in smartphones as customers for their wireless technologies. Aside from helping steer InterDigital’s technology path and therefore keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the industry and where it’s going, wait until you hear what we talk chat about when it comes to new smartphones, the Connected Car and The Connected Home and key topics like security and mobile operating systems.

After listening to this PowerTalk, I think you’ll find some things are not what you think they might be. 

Direct download: 04-11-13_JIMNOLANPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am EST

Fellow investors,

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

One of my Great 8 PowerTrends is Always On, Always Connected. That refers to the pervasive nature of the Internet and the connected society we live in. With more time being spent online from mobile devices, the combination the smartphone and tablet along with websites and apps like Facebook (FB), Twitter, LinkedIn (LNKD), Netflix (NFLX), Path, Amazon.com (AMZN), Pinterest and others are changing how we work, stay in touch with friends and family, digest news, watch movies and TV and shop.

But there’s a new way to shop and it’s one that let’s you make money from the closet full of clothes and accessories that you’ve built up over the years and buy the fashion items you have been seeking or wish you had. I’m referring to Poshmark, a company whose mobile app allows you to buy from the closets of Americans at affordable prices. Now you may hear that and be skeptical but with more than 1 million users that are uploading the equivalent of an entire Nordstrom’s store every few days, Poshmark is company that sits at the center of my Always On, Always Connected and the Cash Strapped Consumer component of my Rise and Fall of the Middle Class  PowerTrends. 

With me this week on PowerTalk is the Manish Chandra, the founder and CEO of Poshmark. Over the last two years, Manish and his team have focused on women’s fashion and built a user friendly platform that has some women making thousands of dollars a month. Recently Poshmark received a $12 million investment from venture capital firm Menlo Park Ventures. I suspect Menlo saw that Poshmark is tracking to have $350 million in inventory uploaded this year alone -- that’s head and shoulders above the $100 million it was expecting. 

That all sounds pretty good and after talking with Manish, it’s only going to get better because there are some big things planned for Poshmark in the months ahead. If you like buying designer brands online at Amazon.com (AMZN), Macy’s (M), Saks (SKS) or Nordstrom’s (JWN), wait until you hear what’s next for Poshmark.


Some of the key takeaways from my PowerTalk with Manish are:

  • Consumers continue to embrace technologies and platforms to look for value where they can. This began years ago with eBay (EBAY) and has benefitted Amazon.com (AMZN) tremendously with its 6PM.com and other initiatives. Poshmark is the latest in a line of e-tailors and builds on the growing mobile e-tailer landscape. 
  • Poshmark’s continued success is likely to pose problems for mid-to higher end retailers such as Nordstrom (JWN), Saks (SKS), Macy’s (M) and others should women continue to embrace mobile discount shopping for premium and luxury brands.
  •   As Poshmark expands its footprint the pressure its business model could join in on the pressure that is already being put on companies like Children’s Place (PLCE), Gap Kids (GPS) and others by the likes of Costco (COST) and Target (TGT).
Direct download: 04-05-13_POSHMARKPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:30am EST

Direct download: 03-29-13_REDTHREADPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:03am EST

Direct download: 03-29-13_MICHAELBROWNPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:55am EST

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits.   If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

Over the last few years we’ve seen the explosion in smartphones, tablets and ereaders from the likes of Samsung, Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), Amazon.com (AMZN) and others. Those devices along with streaming services, cable news, companies like Facebook (FB) and Twitter as well as apps like Flipboard are changing the way we consume news. That’s had a negative impact on the publishing industry, specifically the newspaper and magazine industries. 

A number of newspapers and magazines have folded while others are have reduced the number of days they publish and shift their business model increasingly online. The crux of the problem is the business model of old -- advertising -- is very different in the online world than it was in the print one. That’s forced companies like The New York Times (NYT), News Corp.’s (NWSA) Wall Street Journal and others to adopt new business models. 

Joining me this week to discuss all of this and talk about some of the latest strategies being put to work to help revitalize the news industry is Andrew Nachison, one of the founders of WeMedia, a global agency, studio and idea incubator for the digital age. Clients include publishers, marketers, startups, investors, media companies and educations institutions the world over. 

During our PowerTalk, we dish not only on the challenges facing these institutions, but also why legendary investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) has been scooping them up over the last year. Andrew also dishes on those properties that are doing right and he even shares the emerging business model that could help digital publishers and disrupt Google’s (GOOG) Adsense advertising platform.  

Several key takeaway that I came away with from my conversation with Andrew include:

  • Newspaper and magazine publishers like The New York Times Company (NYT), Gannet Co. (GCI), The Washington Post Company (WPO) and others continue to struggle with the shift in advertising dollars to digital platforms and away from print. While there are some success stories in the print medium, the publishing companies continue to struggle with how they compete with online properties.
  • Publishers are experimenting with new business models, such as the paywall seen at NewS Corp’s Wall Street Journal. Several online properties, such as Business Insider and Buzz Feed, have embraced a native advertising model that includes the “advatorie”, a hybrid advertising and content that meshes well within the online property’s content offering.  This model is evident inside of other platforms, like Patagonia and other media-product providers. 
  • The “advatorie” business model poses a threat to Google’s Adsense text and banner advertising model.
  • Tablets, such as Apple’s (AAPL) iPad and others will pressure the text book industry. Already new libraries are popping up that don’t have any books. Companies to watch on this front include News Corp., Amplify and Scholastic. 
Direct download: 03-21-13_WEMEDIAPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:12am EST